Tag Archives: spiritual growth

The Resplendent Path: Embracing Chaos

Ships in distress: a storm

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos.” Words attributed to Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

Insomnia. Sleep seems a vague reference to a faint idea masked as a memory of what should have been a real thing. Now wakefulness is your reality, your ONLY reality. Family, friends and sanity have long abandoned you, as you lost touch with hope. Days and nights you spend glued to the luminescent screen of that relentless monstrosity of a laptop, doing ghostwriting jobs – receiving zero recognition – by the virtue of which you can continue paying the bills and that pitiful excuse for a condo you call home. You are nothing more than a machine, just waiting for the latest updates in order to be allowed to shut down . . . forever.

Now imagine fear. You are a fugitive, on the run for the long arm of the law, representing the ignorance of the crowd. Only you know the true value of the secrets they are trying to take from you. Who can you trust, with assassins lurking behind every corner? Even your once formidable reasoning skills are starting to desert your cause, leaving you high and dry. And all of a sudden the men in white coats finally take you by surprise, wrestle you into a van, and with vicious intent bring you to their agency, which they euphemistically call “mental hospital”. When they force dangerous chemicals into your bloodstream, and you are sure it is a truth serum that will allow them to finally get the information you had been protecting all this time, they call it “treatment.” You wake up after a rough night of sweating, swearing, and screaming. What that so called psychiatrist calls “schizophrenia” is now starting to become a state of total confusion, fear, and desperation. Everything is falling apart . . . even your conception of self, your identity as a world-class spy.

We can all imagine such scenarios because of the movies we see and, I would say, more profoundly due to the novels we read. Though it is not likely that our lives resemble those of the main characters in these two short narratives, I assume that you have had periods in life when your felt “stuck”, and periods when you felt “confused.” You might have had a monotonous job with no perspective, but which you could not give up because of financial reasons. Or you might have been overwhelmed by all the new responsibilities and challenges as a new mother.

Whatever the case, and whatever the extent, those fluctuations between what I would call “order” and “chaos”, are very common.

The concept of chaos has its roots in Ancient Greek philosophy, possibly starting with Orpheus introducing the term, “Chaos condenses into the giant Cosmic Egg, whose rupture resulted in the creation of Phanes and Ouranos and of all the gods who symbolise the creation of the Universe.”

“Yet they have a nature that can be interpreted, for in all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order, in all caprice a fixed law, for everything that works is grounded on its opposite,” Carl Jung said in Archetypes of the Collective Unconsciousness.

The concepts of chaos and order are also familiar to physicists, like for instance in thermodynamics where it is referred to as entropy. There is a distinct field called Chaos Theory, which has been very helpful to me in more methodologically describing the ideas which I have already wrestled with philosophically and intuitively.

Let’s describe it in more imaginative terms, as I have done in an earlier blog post. On the extreme left side of the spectrum you may imagine a perfect block of ice, completely inert. On the more extreme right visualize a wild stream, a ferocious river, a waterfall if you will. The block of ice represents order, a static state of being, unchangeable (for the sake of the argument, refrain from thinking about the possibility of melting or other exceptions). The wild river represents chaos, it is never the same, ever changing.

Now, if you would carefully examine snow flakes from up-close, you might marvel at their wonderfully complex pattern, which is unique and intricate, but with a sense of order to it that clearly distinguishes it from randomness. That snowflake represents complexity, the optimal mean (resplendent, as it is so miraculous, if you think about it) between order and chaos, between inertia and random change.

Snow flakes are just snow flakes, however, ice blocks are nothing more than ice blocks, and rivers, however important for the sustenance of life, are merely rivers. Complexity in our universe is infinitely more profound – and I think it even describes things like intelligence and conscious growth – so why should we care about the different states of H2O? Because it can help us understand the three concepts which I want to use to describe not only natural phenomena, as is the domain of physicists, but also psychological growth, the dynamics of society, and the spiritual – though the latter requires quite a leap of faith.

Complexity in a static universe is just that: complexity. However, movement, and change, are an inextricable part of existence. In a system that allows for change and movement, order might also mean “cyclic”, “linear”, “predictable” or “continuous”, whereas chaos (which I intellectually conveniently, but perhaps incorrectly, equal to “disorder”) might also mean “random”, “alinear”, “unpredictable”, or “discontinuous”. In the same way, complexity might be called “growth” or “dynamics” in such a system.

Complexity, dynamics, and growth are, as I said, the optimal mean (a moving equilibrium if you will) between order and chaos (between continuity and discontinuity). This is the hot spot where miracles happen: intelligent life that evolves, and all else that is complex and dynamic. In its most optimal form, it is the ideal path, the resplendent path (Yes, I know it sounds like your average new age fluff, but bear with me).

If you use such denominations, it is easier to apply them to other fields, like the ones I mentioned earlier – which is, of course, a mere intellectual exercise of imagination, if not warranted by sound argumentation and proof. In the book which I am currently working on, I will establish more sound reasoning to back up my claims where possible and desirable. Backed by science and philosophy or not, I am confident that such intellectual exercises are very helpful in approaching the many challenges which people, from individuals to societies as a whole, are facing every single day.

I will just share various examples for the three different aspects of complexity, for different fields: psychology, sociology, the spiritual. Just the terms, as I want you to draw your own conclusions.

What I write is not new or revolutionary, it might even be rooted in the very ancient foundations or western culture and philosophy, like for example the origins of the concept of chaos I have referred to earlier.

However, what I do hope to have demonstrated through this writing – and I will do so in much more details in my upcoming book – , is that these ideas, although à première vue  they might seem overly simplistic, are an amazingly helpful framework to approach the complex issues in psychological development (and pathology), in the dynamics of society, and perhaps even spiritual growth.

One might even go as far as to say that the ancient question “What is the meaning of life?” may simply be answered with: “To find and follow the golden mean between order and chaos: the resplendent path, where miracles happen and everything falls into place.”

© 2019 Marcel van Delft

Image: Ludolf Bakhuizen – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6259173

We Know, Yet, We Resist

Man loses his job, then, feeling quite the loser, instead becomes a boozer.

Woman escapes abusive relationship, then falls prey to exactly the same type of misogynistic, masochistic monster.

Our true selves know. They have always known. They are knocking on our doors, yet we do not open, as if they were pertinacious Yehova’s Witnesses or relentless debt collectors.

We dread the ill news they bring, the news of hope and change, of purpose, the real news we need to hear.

Since we are naturally inclined to revolt against needs which cause such dismay and unrest, we are tempted to follow wants instead of needs.

The list of wants may seem endless: consumer goods, drugs, alcohol, sex, enchanting sights, squishies, seductive smells, self-serving ideas, intellectual achievements, Girl Scouts Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies, comforts, repetition, instincts, emotions, depression, patterns, and familiar, but horrific types of (abusive) partners.

When good news – and I do not mean Yehova’s Witnesses here – knocks gently on our doors, we often crawl back under the safety of our blanket of familiarity.

If it bangs on the door and adversity strikes, we dig deep into the seemingly rich soil of those wants, which develop into extremities, monstrosities of addiction and derealization, anything that can numb the pain.

Tragically, even at the bottom, when we realize that none of the tempest’s promises have come true, we are often unwilling to exchange wants for needs, and grow bitter in contempt or denial.

And the more we deny, eventually, the louder our true selves will come knocking at the door. It is us who have to find the courage and strength of will to open it, for it will never open by itself. And once the door is opened, something majestic happens, that humbles us and makes us wish we could take back all our wrongs. Why didn’t we choose needs rather than wants, why didn’t we submit to purpose and fulfillment rather than to denial and escapism?

Painting: Vladimir Makovsky

© 2019 Marcel van Delft

Is charity really selfless?

Generosity is to expand the prison of the selfish self to the free wide world of interconnected humanity, it is the gateway to the higher realm of the true self that is ONE with everything, with love in its purest form.

_MG_0826

Likewise, gratefulness transforms the inevitable disappointment of short term gratification and avoidance of change into the unlimited satisfaction of all-encompassing peace and love – where hunger and pain dissolve into harmless dust particles.
This makes charity a much broader concept, which includes things like:
A smile;
Deciding not to say something hurtful or sarcastic;
Being honest in saying “no” to something, but doing so in the most friendly, respectful way;
Giving your seat to someone else who is in higher need of it;
Giving a compliment;
Understanding others;
Taking into account other people’s feelings whenever you do or say something;
Stopping to try changing people who are not yet ready for it;
Refraining from forcing your opinion;
Submitting to life events rather than complaining about them to others.
Who knows? Your simple act of charity could just be the one thing that convinces someone to change despair into hope. Not doing a small good deed might might just be the last negative trigger for someone who is already standing on the horrifying edge of a suicidal cliff.
Even your kind words might change hell into heaven and storms into a summer breeze. How much do we really know about other people’s struggles and the reasons for their behavior – annoying or not?
And in the end, the biggest profit goes to you, freeing you from your imprisoning “thinking self”.